History of Sony PlayStation

Game-Changing Video Game Console

The PlayStation was the first video game console to sell over 100 million units. How did Sony Interactive Entertainment manage to score a home run on its first foray into the video game market?

Sony and Nintendo

The history of the PlayStation begins in 1988 when Sony and Nintendo were working together to develop the Super Disc. Nintendo was the leading in computer gaming at that time. Sony had not yet entered the home video game market but they were eager to make a move.

By teaming with the market leader, they believed they had the best chance of success.

The Super Disc was going to be a CD-ROM attachment that was intended to be part of Nintendo's soon to be released Super Nintendo game. However, Sony and Nintendo parted ways business-wise as Nintendo decided to use Philips as a partner instead. The Super Disc was never introduced or used by Nintendo.

In 1991, Sony used a modified version of the Super Disk as part of their new game console -  the Sony Playstation. Research and development for the PlayStation had begun in 1990, headed by Sony engineer, Ken Kutaragi. It was shown at the Consumer Electronics Show in June 1991 but the next day was the day that Nintendo announced they were going to use Philips instead. Kutaragi was tasked with further developing the PlayStation to beat Nintendo.

Only two hundred models of the first Play Station (that could play Super Nintendo game cartridges) were manufactured by Sony.

The original Playstation was designed as a multi-media and multi-purpose entertainment unit. Besides being able to play Super Nintendo games, the Play Station could play audio CDs and could read CDs with computer and video information. However, these prototypes were scrapped.

Developing the PlayStation

Kutaragi developed games in a 3D polygon graphics format.

 Not everyone at Sony approved of the PlayStation project, and it was decided to shift the project to Sony Music in 1992, which was a separate entity. They further spun off to form Sony Computer Entertainment, Inc. (SCEI) in 1993.

The new company attracted developers and partners including Electronic Arts and Namco, who were excited about the 3D-capable, CD-ROM based console. It was easier and cheaper to manufacture CD-ROM compared with the cartridges used by Nintendo.

Release of the PlayStation

In 1994, the new PlayStation X (PSX) was released that was no longer compatible with Nintendo game cartridges and only played CD-ROM based games. This was a smart move that soon made PlayStations the bestselling game console.

The console was a slim, gray unit and the PSX joypad allowed far more control than the pads of the Sega Saturn competitor. It sold more than 300,000 units in the first month of sales in Japan.

The PlayStation was introduced to the United States at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in Los Angeles in May, 1995. They presold over 100,000 units by the September US launch. Within a year they had sold almost 2 million units in the United States and over 7 million worldwide. They reached the milestone of 100 million units by the end of 2003.